Later this month, the nation’s homeless population will be counted in a mass effort required every two years by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Called the “Point-in-Time Count,” volunteer teams will fan out after dark in cities across the country to locate, interview and count the homeless who are living in the streets and in shelters. Based on the findings, HUD will set funding levels for shelters and other agencies assisting the homeless.
Here in Detroit, the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) takes an active role in the nationwide count. Working in partnership with the Homeless Action Network of Detroit (HAND), we are providing volunteers and a staging area for them before they spread out over Detroit. Numerous other service agencies and community and civic leaders will also participate.
This year’s count will undoubtedly shed light on whether the economic recession has resulted in a rise in homelessness. For the first time, volunteers will take a detailed census of homeless veterans and unaccompanied children under the age of eighteen. It also provides an opportunity to inform the homeless of the assistance that is available to them and to distribute care packages containing items such as food, blankets, socks and hygiene products.
As an agency working with the homeless, next week’s count is extremely important. We have seen an increase in the people we serve, so an accurate count will help us get the necessary resources to address the issue more effectively and permanently. The data that is collected through the interviews will also help us promote real change in people’s lives.
Volunteers are still needed across the country to help in the count. Experienced leaders will accompany the teams. Contact your county or local service agencies to find out how you can get involved. Every person counts!